Lead or Leave!
Sounds pretty tough, doesn’t it? Many Senior Leaders I work with can at first violently disagree with me. They typically say “Mitch, you’re wrong, someone has to lead, and someone has to follow”, or “We can’t all be leaders”.
Can you see the problem here? It’s the old “either/or” thinking. You’re a leader or a follower.
Again, why not be both? This is what I see all great leaders do. They know how to do both. Be great leaders and great followers.
How to be a great leader
Because being a great leader also means learning to be a great follower. To really know how to lead authentically, you have to be able to step into others’ shoes. The shoes of followers, or what it means to be a follower.
That’s why I consistently see great leaders “helping out”, “pitching in”, and taking directions from others, often more junior than themselves.
You can lead from any chair
I talk a lot about this in my book Your Leadership Diamond. Leadership is not a position, it’s a mindset. A title makes you a manager, it’s people that make you a leader. Leadership is taking responsibility for leaving people, places and projects better than you found them.
You don’t need a title to do that. No matter what your function, role or level, you can always make a choice to lead. To do something, to make a difference to someone.
In my world, if you’re not prepared to do that, you’ll do more harm than good. So please let’s call it quits. I respect your position to want to just be a follower, but not here.
In all areas of your life
And, leadership doesn’t stop at work. In fact, it starts at home. That’s where most of our lessons in life, our values, our beliefs and perspective on life itself comes from. From when we were a child.
So, are you leading in your family? Showing what’s important, not just by your words, but by your actions. Cause if you have kids, that’s what they’re tracking. Tracking how you celebrate, tracking your authenticity, your compassion, tracking how you lead the family in good times and in bad.
Expanding the world of others
Your main job as a leader is not to develop more followers, it’s to develop more leaders, who know it’s important to do both. Relish having your team taking the front seat at times yet be very comfortable sitting in the passenger seat and know when it’s time to sit in the back altogether. And when they do lead, make sure they understand…
Sometimes getting and sometimes giving
Sure, it’s important to know what you want in life, what you want to get. But it’s not all about you! The famous Zig Ziglar said:
“You can have everything in life you want,
if you will just help other people get what they want”
In our Leadership Development Programmes, we do a great exercise where we ask each team member what they’re getting from others and what they’d like to get more of. We also ask them what they believe they’re giving and what they’d like to get more of. It’s always a fascinating exercise. Because it’s always a two-way race. Are you giving and getting?
Do you give and take?
Most weeks I’m contacted by people, some of who I hardly know, or don’t know much at all, with what I’m sure they think is a great offer. It usually goes like this:
“Can I buy you a coffee and pick your brains about “X”?”
It’s very rarely:
“May I buy you a coffee, capture your experience about “X” and in return do “Y” for you.
Think about it. How many times are you been on the take and forget about what you can do in return? Even without consciously knowing it. Adam Grant explains it beautifully in his book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success. The Beatles did it in one line:
When did you last do something for someone with absolutely no expectation of anything in return?
Here are some small tweaks to develop the leadership and follower mindsets of you and those around you:
- Seek out an external charity or community where you can make a difference by being a great follower.
- Encourage your team to take initiatives and they do, celebrate them having a go.
- Continually look at how the lessons, skills and experience from your work life can morph into your home life and your community life.
- Take every opportunity you can to teach your team and associates key leadership mindsets and skills. Always focussing on developing the leaders around you.
- Go into every interaction being clear on two aspects or intentions; what do you wish to get and what can you give?
So, if you just want to follow, do exactly as you’re told, see problems as someone else’s problem, blame others for a lack of progress… fine. But in the world of “Leaders for Life” (L4L), that just doesn’t cut it.
So off you go, no hard feelings.
“I’d rather leave while I’m in love”
Peter Allen and Carole Bayer
It’s time to make a decision. LEAD or LEAVE.
Until next time…
Find the passion.
Develop the skills.
Make the numbers.
Make a difference.
“APAC’s most respected transformational leadership performance coach”
Paul Mitchell (@Paul_S_Mitchell) is a speaker, author, transformational leadership coach and founder of the human enterprise. Through leadership coaching, leadership development programmes, keynotes and facilitation, Paul works with organisations to build cultures where everybody leads.
We’ve researched the absolute essentials of inspiring leadership and created a one-day experience for emerging and new leaders. It’s primarily skills based, yet also inspires your associates to be the best leaders they can be at work, at home and in their community. It provides you with a solid platform of self-awareness, a servant leadership mindset, and the skills necessary to get to Higher Ground in the future. Basecamp: Leadership Essentials is also now being delivered as Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT) with online pre and post workshop activities to promote transference of learnings and skills back into your organisation.
In his #1 Amazon Best Selling book, Your Leadership Diamond, Paul Mitchell reveals how in a period of just seven weeks, you can take your leadership to a whole new level. He inspires us to see ourselves as diamonds that just need a little polishing to really shine. You’ll discover simple, practical advice, for time-poor leaders who wish to transform the way they lead at work, at home and in their communities.